During her 2021-2022 term, ALA President Patty Wong focused on sustainability as one of her four presidential pillars. In her inaugural speech, President Wong outlined this area of focus, saying:
"To thrive and evolve into the future, ALA must adopt the 'triple bottom line' mindset of sustainability: We must embody practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable."
This introductory page of the Sustainability and Libraries resource guide highlights activities from the American Library Association that focus on sustainability as a core value of librarianship. Other pages of the guide provide resources on sustainability, including a bibliography of recent titles and online resources.
Spotlight on Recent ALA Sustainability Outcomes and Programming
An ALA Connect Live event from February 2022, on the role that libraries can and should have in supporting our communities to adapt to ongoing climate change, and showcasing what some library champions are doing to help their communities while being an engaging conversation as to what that action looks like.
The pilot program (2020-21) of this initiative helped libraries engage their communities in programs and conversations that address the climate crisis.
The program funded film screenings, community dialogues and related events based on local interest in 25 public and academic libraries. It also funded the creation of a suite of free programming resources about the climate crisis that is available to all libraries.
At ALA Annual 2021, Council approved CD53 Resolution to Achieve Carbon Neutrality for ALA Conferences (see ALA Guidelines, Policies and Resolutions, above).
The ALA Council Committee on Sustainability was charged with assisting and tracking progress toward this goal. This FAQ offers a very brief primer for those new to the conversation around carbon neutrality.
Have you thought about the environmental impact of the swag items that you provide at library programs and other
events? This rubric - developed by the ALA Sustainability Round Table (Sustain RT) - can help you evaluate the sustainability of the promotional materials your library purchases.
The American Library Association’s Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) Booklist Committee curates an annual list of 10 notable children’s books on nature, conservation, and communities that reflect SustainRT’s mission “to exchange ideas and opportunities regarding sustainability in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy, and economically viable society.”
Established by ALA Council in January 2021, the Sustainability Committee’s charge is to provide the necessary leadership and monitoring of ALA strategic initiatives that will infuse the core value of sustainability throughout the policies, procedures, practices of our association and our professional activities, in collaboration with the ALA Board and President, ALA Council, ALA divisions, ALA offices and units, ALA round tables, ALA committees, ALA affiliates and ALA staff so that our association and its members contribute to the development of sustainable and resilient communities.
The ISLD of the ALA International Relations Round Table (IRRT) serves as a clearinghouse of sustainable community-based library projects in developing areas of the world. This group mobilizes the power of ALA librarians to raise awareness of and make significant contributions to international library development.
The ALA Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) morphed out of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Task Force on the Environment (TFOE) during “Libraries for Sustainability,” a four-part series of free webinars offered in 2012. SustainRT was created as a venue in which ALA members exchange ideas and opportunities regarding sustainability in order to move toward a more equitable, healthy and economically viable society.
A task force created as a response to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) call for library associations around the world to show the power of libraries in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
ALA Guidelines, Policies and Resolutions
These guidelines, policies and resolutions have been created and adopted by ALA as a continued effort to advocate for the importance of sustainability in libraries, and to help libraries promote community awareness about resilience, climate change and a sustainable future. They are listed in chronological order with the most recent at the top.
Resolution, adopted June 2021, which "pursues a goal of carbon neutrality for all ALA conferences by the year 2025 and will remain carbon neutral for these events thereafter; delegates to the ALA Council Committee on sustainability to assist and track progress toward this goal; and encourages all roundtables, chapters, affiliates, and others who work with the Association to consider adopting similar goals to reduce carbon footprints."
Resolution, adopted at the 2019 Midwinter Meeting, which, "shall define sustainability using the 'triple bottom line' conceptual framework: 'To be truly sustainable, an organization or community must embody practices that are environmentally sound AND economically feasible AND socially equitable;' adopt 'sustainability,' as defined above, as a core value of librarianship; evolve accreditation standards to ensure the topic of sustainability is an inherent element in library school curriculum; provide ALA members with the necessary knowledge and resources to inspire, cultivate and encourage active leadership in the application of the triple bottom line framework to guide decisions for the future of society."
Resolution, adopted June 2017, "recognizes that human interactions and activities affect the dynamics of Earth’s climate system, and that there is a large and growing base of factual scientific data, information, and literature providing robust and accurate STE3M3 (scientific, technical, environmental/economic/ethical, medical/mathematical/management) evidence of global climate change; affirms a commitment to the preservation and availability of this factual scientific data, information, and literature, both from government and citizen sources; and supports librarians, library workers, and educators, as they are guided by the
ALA Policy Manual, in their roles for providing rigorous, robust, and accurate reference and referral services; access to data (both historical and current) and information resources, literature, and collections; and instruction in their use in assisting climate stakeholders’ and library users’ greater understanding of global climate change."
At the 2015 Annual Conference in San Francisco, the ALA Council passed a resolution on the importance of sustainable libraries. The resolution notes that libraries play an important and unique role in wider community communications about resiliency, climate change and a sustainable future and that libraries that demonstrate good stewardship of the resources entrusted to them can build community support that leads to sustainable funding.
Policy B.5.5: "The American Library Association urges librarians and library governing boards to collect and provide information on the condition of our Earth, its air, ground, water, and living organisms from all available sources." (1989-1990 CD #48)